It’s the most wonderful time, of the yeeeeear! *squee* Okay, y’all, it’s here. The holiday season, and I am PSYCHED. Not only because this is the first year I’m a full time author (so no day job to worry about!), but also because I’m a huge fan of this this time of year for a thousand reasons (like baking, and Christmas colors, and hot cocoa, and lighted trees, and rosy cheeked kids tearing paper off gifts, and snowmen, and gingerbread houses and on and on). My favorite thing, besides buying gifts for people (I totes wish that was a profession, I’d be CEO by now), is taking part in and creating new traditions with my family (both extended and immediate). It makes me feel grounded, very grateful and a part of something special (which I am).

So today I’m going to incorporate BOTH of my favorite things into this post. First, I’m going to tell you about a couple of our family traditions, and THEN I’m going to give away a holiday gift! Stick around to the end and tell me about a holiday tradition in your family and one commenter will win a copy of my Entangled Indulgence, Wife for Hire and the another will win a copy of my Entangled Brazen, Down for the Count! Already read those? Then I’ll send you a certificate for the next book in the series instead, and email you a copy as soon as it is released.

Let’s talk a bit about tradition (*sings* TRADITION! Sorry, the Fiddler on the Roof song worms its way into my head every time I say/write that word). In my family, we celebrate Christmas, but because we have a blended family, we don’t always get to be together on Christmas Day. Stepsons have to spend time with Mom and son has to spend time with Dad. The first few years were tough as we struggled to find a good balance where the kids didn’t get carted around so much that it marred the day for them, but that everyone got some time with them. About ten years ago, we decided that the actual day isn’t nearly as important as the spirit it represents, so we moved it. Not the day (Don’t panic, it’s still the 25th!) but the day that we celebrate. We dubbed it “The OBFC”, or The O’Neil-Bell Family Christmas. About a week before Christmas, depending on work schedules etc. (since my kids are now in their mid-teens to early twenties), we take a weekend day and make it our special day to spend together, all day and all night, exchanging gifts, appreciating each other, eating, laughing, eating more, playing games etc.

Here’s how we do it. Morning is usually spent wrapping, getting games together etc. Then, early afternoon, we each get to pick an item of take-out food. There are seven of us (me, my husband, our four boys and our future daughter-in-law), so this ends up being a mixed bag of things like Philly cheesesteaks, General Tsao’s Chicken, Taco Bell and pizza (yes, everyone is allowed to get something different!) We eat, talk and listen to Christmas music. Then, it’s gift time. We each get a pile (everyone has their own paper) and a stocking and then, starting with the youngest, we open them with each person getting the floor while they open a gift. Then the next person opens one and we continue on, round-robin style. This way, rather than just everyone ripping into everything at once, each focused on their own gifts, everyone gets a chance to receive each gift, talk about it, appreciate it, and the giver gets a second to enjoy the feeling of giving it.

Once we’re done, we clean up the paper, put things away, eat some of the candy we’ve invariably gotten and start to set up our games. The games evolve every year, and we’ve done everything from Scavenger Hunts to Deal or No Deal and other games based on gameshows. The past few years have been Minute To Win-It challenges. We start with a big pile of gifts in the corner, all wrapped, and interspersed with envelopes. We start with the youngest and he picks a number from a hat. That number will correspond with a challenge. The challenge could be that the person has to eat a whole lemon in less than one minute. Or it could be a skill test, like having to keep two balloons from touching the ground for 30 seconds (I usually get the challenge ideas online. The Minute To WinIt site has a whole slew of them that are easy to adapt to at-home play, and also list what you need to get to do them. There is also a Minute To WinIt game pack that they sell at most stores, but I’ve found the games we do from scratch at home are usually better—although it is time-consuming).

If the person meets the challenge, they get to select a gift. No touching/shaking the packages allowed! The gifts are usually small, and can be anything from a can of peanuts to a pair of Santa Claus boxer shorts. The envelopes contain anything from $5.00 to various “certificates” that range from “Get out of chore free” cards, to “Appetizer, dinner, dessert of your choice, made by Mom” where the winner gets to turn in their certificate one time during the year and get whatever they want for their meal (24 hour notice required!) There are also “trade up” certificates that allow you to take someone else’s gift and give them yours. The games are hilarious and machinations and trading that go on afterwards is just as much fun.

When it’s all over, we have dessert. It’s always something homemade and awesome. This year is going to be chocolate souffle, but we try our hand at allll sorts of things. We’re getting good at cakes (like our homage to Game of Thrones pictured above,) but whatever strikes our fancy, we endeavor to make it. Then we kick back to mess around with all our new stuff, play board games, and just enjoy each other’s company. The OBFC is by far my favorite holiday (I would bet the kids would say the same), and a tradition all our own.

So tell me, bloggy-friends! What are some of your holiday traditions? I will post two e-book winners on Wednesday, but feel free to leave your email or Twitter handle if you think you might forget to check back.

4 comments on “Tradition…TRADITION!

  1. In my family we do the same thing… each person gets to have the floor while they open their gift and everyone watches them open it. We’ve taken some great surprise-face pictures by doing it this way:) I LOVE the games tradition you have and will absolutely be incorporating that into our Christmas fun this year! I was thinking about doing something with games, but you just totally gave me some great ideas!

  2. Christine, your Christmas sounds like so much fun!!! I love that you all made up your own way of celebrating and started a new tradition. Happy holidays :-)

  3. My holiday traditions starting with me going to pick out a Christmas tree with my parents. After the tree is set up I am always the first one to place am ornament on the tree starting with the 1st ornament I was ever given. Each year I get a new ornament for one year older ( up to 25 now). After that we out up Christmas decorations around the house. On Christmas mom cooks breakfast while dad watches me open presents. Later on we go to grandma’s. But this year since granny is going to CA I’m going to the soup kitchen on Christmas to help the homeless.

  4. We celebrate Winter Solstice. That’s the day Santa comes for my kids, and the day we open gifts from each other — me, my husband and our two girls. We do this because we feel it’s more in keeping with our beliefs (he’s an atheist and I’m a lapsed pagan). But it’s worked out well because it allows the kids to appreciate their gifts from us for a few days and then focus on their grandparents who celebrate Christmas Day.

    Another tradition is I take my kids to the toy store and they each pick out a toy they think is awesome, then we pay for it and they put it in the Toys for Tots box. We started that early on, so they could learn that the holidays weren’t just about greed. :)